13 December 2015

A play in five acts - Narendra Modi and the RSS

Politics and play - Ramachandra Guha
Shortly after the 2014 Indian elections, I wrote that although the new prime minister, Narendra Modi, was "an economic modernizer, in cultural terms he remains a prisoner of the reactionary (not to say medievalist) mindset of the R[ashtriya] S[wayamsevak] S[angh]". Inside Modi's mind and soul, these two contrary impulses were fighting for dominance. Which side would win?

This question was asked by many Indians who had voted for Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party. They knew that Modi had joined the RSS as a young man, and that his political and cultural education had been largely within that organization. But they also knew that in his long tenure as chief minister of Gujarat, he had steadily marginalized the RSS, as well as its sister organization, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, within the state. He had also sought to put the 2002 Gujarat riots behind him, and remake himself as a vikas purush, a man of development. Indeed, in his campaign for the general elections, he had conspicuously avoided the polarizing rhetoric that is the stock-in-trade of the RSS and which he had himself used in the past.

Modi's emphatic victory in the 2014 elections was widely attributed to his having focused on the agenda of economic modernization - that is to say, the need to nourish technological innovation, to make manufacturing viable again, to create better infrastructure, and to improve transparency and efficiency in government. Those loyal to the BJP and Hindutva had, of course, voted for him. But many others, themselves not traditional BJP voters, were so disgusted by the corruption and cronyism of the United Progressive Alliance that they had marked their ballot in favour of Modi's party instead. Finally, many young Indians voting for the first time clearly preferred Modi's economic vision and personal vigour to the tired old shibboleths of the Congress.

'I coped with the tragedy like all the others do'

"You have your good days and bad days but you learn to cope. What else one can one do but accept the bitter truth? It was not easy (then), it is not easy even now. I understood that nobody could help you in this but you. This is your battle."

Eight years ago Subhashini's husband Colonel Vasanth was martyred fighting militants in Kashmir.
Today, she offers hope to widows of army jawans who lost their lives in the line of duty. Subhashini Vasanth tells Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com how she is trying to help women like her.
July 31, 2007. Colonel Vasanth was leading the 9th Maratha Infantry against militants in the Uri sector of Kashmir. After a bitter battle, he was martyred. He was just 40 years old then.
His young wife Subhashini, with their two little daughters, tried to face her personal tragedy bravely. "I coped like all the others do," she says modestly.

Eight years have passed, yet "you have your good days and bad days but you learn to cope. What else can one do but accept the bitter truth? I admit it was not easy and, even after eight years, it is not easy. I understood nobody could help you in this but you. This is your battle," says Subhashini.
She chose to overcome her grief by trying to help women like her and continuing with her passion. Dance had always been her 'partner' from the age of five and, at that time of grief, it became her 'anchor'.

"That is why I tell youngsters to have a hobby which they do just for the passion and not to earn money or fame. It can give you a lot of peace of mind and, ultimately, that is more important than earning money."
In October 2007, a few months after Vasanth's martyrdom, Subhashini started the Vasantharatna Foundation for Arts to realise the dream both of them had discussed many times when he was alive. Now that Vasanth was no longer with her, she decided to name it after him. It has two trustees, Subhashini and Vasanth's cousin; her brothers and sisters are advisors on the board.

The beginning was the play, Silent Front, performed by Subhashini with some professional drama artists. The first performance, organised by the Army Wives' Welfare Association in Delhi, saw then Defence Minister A K Antony as the chief guest.
Subhashini scripted the play and played the lead role. The story was about army wives, seen through the eyes of three generations, and how the situation has changed over the years, from pre-Independence India to the Kargil period.

Some Strange Inconsistencies In Our National Discourse – Part 3

Hari Ravikumar and Dr R Ganesh

7 Dec, 2015
In the previous parts, we discussed the social and political inconsistencies that ​we see in the Indian public discourse. In the third and ​final article we delve into the inconsistencies ​in ​academia and culture. To read the previous parts of the series head here and here.
1. Indian History and Pseudoscience
Pro-Hindu intellectuals claim that Indian history has been re-written by Marxist historians and Indian history is not as it is presented in our school textbooks. It is true that in a bid to foster Hindu-Muslim unity, Marxist historians misrepresented Indian history by downplaying atrocities committed in India by Islamic invaders and tarnishing the greatness of the traditional Hindu society.[1]

But pro-Hindu thinkers themselves peddle historically inaccurate accounts of science in ancient India – be it the claim of flying machines [2] in the time of the Rāmāyaṇa or the existence of test tube babies in the time of the Mahābhārata [3]. When faced with contrary evidence provided by science or when countered with questions demanding further proof, some of them use a simple escape route: they claim that one should have special vision to understand the true, inner meaning of the traditional works and ordinary mortals like us lack the ability. Some others pull out verses from the scriptures and by means of strained interpretations ascribe a meaning that suits their purpose.
For some years, there was a big deal made out of Sanskrit being the best language for natural language processing and computer programming [4]. In all these years, has anyone produced a workable programming language based on Sanskrit? And if they have, has it been shown to be better than the existing ones? Whether or not computers have benefitted from Sanskrit, the Sanskrit language has immensely benefitted from computers and the internet! Instead, people interested in Sanskrit can engage better with the language – read the classics; appreciate the grammatical structure, wide-ranging vocabulary, and immense word building power; and use the language to write poetry or to converse.

There seems to be a mistaken notion among some of the Hindu intellectuals that there needs to be science in an ancient body of knowledge for it to be respected by the world. And they try their best to find science in every inch of our ancient texts. In this fiasco, isn’t it unfortunate that they forget to even mention the true pioneers of science in ancient India like Caraka, Āryabhaṭṭa, Nāgārjuna, and Bhāskara? And it is Suśruta’s pioneering efforts that gave us plastic surgery and not the Puranic story of Gaṇeśa [5].
2. Art and Religion
Some of the artistes and writers are quick to bring to notice the intolerance to blasphemy among ‘right wing fundamentalists’ (possibly in the sole case of Salman Rushdie, they denounced the fatwa against his controversialSatanic Verses). But isn’t it true that any hardcore ideology, in general, is opposed to art?

Manipur: Endless Turf Wars

Deepak Kumar Nayak, Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

Sehkholen, a leader of a breakaway faction of the Kuki National Front-Presidential (KNF-P) and one of his associates are reported to have been killed in an inter-factional gunfight at a secluded location between Leikot and Phaijang villages under Saparmeina Police Station in the Senapati District of Manipur on November 21, 2015.

On November 19, 2015, two militants were killed in a reported clash between the United Tribal Liberation Army led by Kam Robert Singson (UTLA-Robert) and the UTLA faction led by S.K. Thadou in the interior areas of Laikot, a Kuki village, under the Nungba Police Station limits in Manipur’s Tamenglong District. On November 20, the Thadou faction of UTLA clarified that the reported gun fight was between UTLA (Robert) and Kuki National Organisation (KNO) cadres and UTLA (Thadou) was not involved. Thadou asserted that his outfit had not engaged in any violence since it entered into a tripartite agreement with the Government in 2013. UTLA, a Kuki militant, was formed in 2002 and underwent a split in 2011. While the Thadou faction entered into a tripartite agreement in 2013, the Robert faction ‘surrendered’ on March 27, 2012.

With multiple factions operating, factional clashes among the militant formations in Manipur have always been a significant aspect of violence in the State. In fact, Manipur Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam, speaking at the 124th Raising Day of the Manipur Police in Imphal on October 19, 2015, observed that there were more than 40 insurgent groups operating in the State. Praising the Police, he added that Manipur Police had earned a "great reputation" in dealing with the difficult situation, including both the containment of the insurgency as well as complex day-to-day law and order problems. Referring to the militant groups and factions, Gaikhangam noted that, apart from the violence of underground outfits and their numerous frontal organizations, small groups of armed mercenaries were also resorting to abduction for ransom, extortion and other unlawful activities.

Afghan Taliban Overrun Another District in Helmand Province

Bill Roggio, The Long War Journal, December 9, 2015
The Taliban now controls 37 districts in Afghanistan and contests another 39, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. These numbers may be low given the methodology used to assess control and contested districts. The group has made a push to gain territory over the past two months, seizing 15 districts in the north, west, and south. [See map above and from The New York Times.]
The Taliban claimed it overran the district center in Khanishin in southern Helmand province after making a final assault earlier today. The Taliban had been battling Afghan forces for control of the remote district for several days.

“Reports arriving from southern Helmand province say that for the past couple of days, Khan-e-Sheen district center and all its surrounding bases and check posts were under a tight Mujahideen siege and attacks,” the Taliban claimed in a statement released on Voice of Jihad, its official propaganda outlet.
“At around 11:30 a.m. today, Mujahideen mounted a major push against the last remaining enemy positions, triggering heavy clashes that lasted for about 3 hours as a result the entire administration center, district bazaar and surrounding check posts fell under the complete control of Mujahideen,” the statement continued. “The enemy also suffered deadly losses in the fighting while a large amount of enemy arms, ammunition and equipment along with several APCs and vehicles were also seized.”

The Taliban’s claim that it overran the district was largely supported by the Afghan press. According to TOLONews, “Local officials in Helmand said Wednesday evening that Khanishin district in the southern province has fallen to the Taliban following heavy clashes between security forces and militants.”
Khanishin was a haven for the Taliban long before it fell earlier today. Afghan security officials said in February 2014 that the Taliban ran training camps in Khanishin and neighboring Dishu district.

Taliban controls or contests 70 districts in Afghanistan

By The LWJ Editors | October 16th, 2015 | 

The Taliban now controls 35 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts and contests another 35, according to information compiled by The Long War Journal. The data was used by The New York Times to create a map that depicts the Taliban’s reach in Afghanistan. The map is reproduced above. The Long War Journal‘s original map, as well as our methodology for labeling a district controlled or contested, can be viewed here.
We believe that the Taliban either controls or contests far more districts than are listed in the maps. From The New York Times report accompanying the map:
The Taliban have a significant footprint in Afghanistan, according to Bill Roggio, the editor of The Long War Journal, an online publication that is tracking Taliban control. Mr. Roggio has confirmed that about one-fifth of the country is controlled or contested by the Taliban, but based on his understanding of how the Taliban operate, he said, “they probably either control or heavily influence about a half of the country.”
Our data understates the Taliban’s influence in areas of Afghanistan, particularly in the east and south, as we are using open source reports to determine a district’s status. [See LWJ report, Taliban controls or contests scores of districts in Afghanistan, for more details.]

As the Taliban regains areas lost during the US-led surge from 2009-2012, the US is planning to further reduce its presence, just not as quickly as previously anticipated. The US currently has less than 10,000 troops in the country, after already abandoning a counterinsurgency strategy that required far more soldiers. President Obama planned to withdraw all US troops, with the exception of a force to protect the Kabul embassy, by 2017. Yesterday, with the situation in Afghanistan deteriorating, Obama reversed course and said that 5,500 troops would remain in country at the end of his term in office. Those troops would be based in four locations: Kabul, Bagram, Nangarhar, and Kandahar.
We argue that this force is insufficient to halt the Taliban’s advance. The Taliban seized the provincial capital of Kunduz for two weeks and dozens of districts this year, despite the presence of 9,800 US troops in country.

The Taliban also makes the case that a force of 5,500 soldiers is not enough.

“If the invaders lost the war in Afghanistan with the presence of hundreds of thousands of troops, their hopes of reversing the tide with five thousand troops are also misguided,” the Taliban said in an official statement that was released on Voice of Jihad.

We are loath to admit that the Taliban has a point.

Punjab: Creeping Shadow of Daesh

Ambreen Agha
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management
On November 30, 2015, after a heavy exchange of fire, the Security Forces (SFs) killed at least four al Qaeda terrorists at Wador, within the limits of Gadani Police Station in Dera Ghazi Khan District. However, an al Qaeda 'commander' Shoaib Cheema and his accomplice Hanif Muhammad managed to escape from the encounter site. According to Police sources, the terrorists had entered Punjab via Balochistan and had planned to launch major terrorist activities in the Punjab Province.

On November 25, 2015, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) founder Haroon Bhatti and three of his accomplices were killed in a midnight raid jointly conducted by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and Police in the Badami Bagh area of the provincial capital, Lahore. Bhatti’s slain accomplices were identified as, Omair Nadeem, Omair Hassan and Noman Yasin. Three Policemen were also injured in the gunfight. On October 22, 2015, the Police had brought Bhatti and four of his associates back to Pakistan, from Dubai, with the help of Interpol. According to official sources, Bhatti was accompanying the Police and CTD personnel to an abandoned factory where LeJ terrorists were hiding. On reaching the location, the terrorists hiding inside the factory allegedly opened fire, killing Bhatti and the three others. Later, an unnamed senior Police official admitted that the killings were staged by the authorities. In an interview to The Guardian a Lahore-based Police official, on condition of anonymity, admitted,
This had to be done to maintain peace in the Province. No one would have given evidence against them because witnesses would be brutally targeted. You can’t allow terrorists to carry on their attacks just because you don’t have any proof against them.

Documentary Of The Week: The Thorium Nuclear Reactor


Written by John Lounsbury
Econintersect: The future of nuclear power is not considered very promising by many at the present time. This video discusses the history of nuclear energy and suggests that many unfortunate choices were made over the decades which has resulted in a far from optimal nuclear power industry today. One particular interesting assertion is that the uranium and plutonium reactors pursued for generating electricity were so developed because of the interest in those sources for weapons. The suggestion here is that technology not of interest for weapons could be much preferable for power generation.

Two alerts for this presentation:
There are several ads inserted which can be skipped by clicking when they occur.
The discussion on the economics of wind and (especially) solar are out of date.
Source: YouTube

Reimagining Journalism: The Story of the One Percent

 Despite fizzling out within months, Occupy Wall Street succeeded in changing the terms of political discussion in America. Inequality, the concentration of wealth, the one percent, the new Gilded Age—all became fixtures of national debate thanks in part to the protesters who camped out in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. Even the Republican presidential candidates have felt compelled to address the matter. News organizations, meanwhile, have produced regular reports on the fortunes of the wealthy, the struggles of the middle class, and the travails of those left behind.
Even amid the outpouring of coverage of rising income inequality, however, the richest Americans have remained largely hidden from view. On all sides, billionaires are shaping policy, influencing opinion, promoting favorite causes, polishing their images—and carefully shielding themselves from scrutiny. Journalists have largely let them get away with it. News organizations need to find new ways to lift the veil off the superrich and lay bare their power and influence. Digital technology, with its flexibility, speed, boundless capacity, and ease of interactivity, seems ideally suited to this task, but only if it’s used more creatively than it has been to date.
Consider, for instance, DealBook, the online daily financial report of The New York Times. It has a staff of twelve reporters plus a half-dozen columnists covering investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, hedge funds, venture capital, and regulatory matters. Every day, DealBook posts a dozen or so pieces on the Times website, some of which also appear in the print edition, making it seem a good vehicle for showing how Wall Street really works.

China vulnerable over Tibet

http://www.rediff.com/news/column/column-china-vulnerable-over-tibet/20151209.htm December 09, 2015
China is worried about the situation post the Dalai Lama and that his reincarnation could surface in Arunchal Pradesh, a region it claims as its own, but which is part of the Indian Republic, says former RA&W Additional Secretary Jayadeva Ranade.

Reports in China's official media over the past month, while implicitly pointing to the continuing influence of the 14th Dalai Lama in Tibetan areas, indicate a renewed emphasis by the Chinese regime in tackling anti-China and 'separatist' tendencies especially among Tibetan officials and monks and nuns.
Amidst hints that China is preparing for the time when a successor to the Dalai Lama has to be chosen, Beijing has indicated it anticipates that some foreign elements could stir up trouble inside Tibet at that time.

Additionally, it appears to apprehend the possibility that the Dalai Lama's reincarnation could be 'discovered' in Arunachal Pradesh. The reports together suggest that the Communist regime in Beijing still feels vulnerable on the Tibet issue.
Specifically, Beijing launched campaigns this November in at least the Tibet Autonomous Region, TAR, and Qinghai province, which includes parts of Amdo region, to 'educate' monks on the 'negative influence of separatist ideas.'

The State-run Global Times on November 26, quoted Dorje, Director of the Publicity Department of the Nangqian County Party Committee of Qinghai province, as saying that 'education can ensure that monks and nuns do not participate in activities to split the country and disrupt social order.'

The Chinese Submarine Threat

What is the scale of the threat to U.S. supercarriers of China’s growing undersea capabilities?
By Ben Ho Wan Beng, December 10, 2015
There has been extensive debate in recent years about modern Chinese anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) systems rendering the aircraft carriers of the United States Navy (USN) highly vulnerable if Beijing and Washington were to clash in the western Pacific. Particularly ominous is the growing undersea arm of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). According to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, China’s attack submarine fleet consists mainly of diesel-electric boats (SSKs) ­– there are 57 of them, as well as five nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs). Of these, the more modern ones include two Shang SSNs, 12 Kilo SSKs, and 12 Yuan SSKs.

Experts often allude to the threat posed by SSKs to the U.S. flattop. This is because the SSK, which is quieter than its nuclear-powered counterpart, is seemingly often able to slip detection by the carrier’s escorts. There have been numerous instances of American carrier groups being surprised by SSKs, friendly or otherwise, during either training exercises or regular deployments. The most famous is arguably the 2006 incident of a Song surfacing at a distance within firing range of the Kitty Hawk battle group. Critics point out that if a relatively inferior sub like the Song was able to penetrate the carrier’s screen, a more capable one such as the Kilo would find the endeavor easier. And in a similar case in October this year, a Chinese boat reportedly “stalked” the Reagan carrier strike group (CSG), setting off alarm bells amongst U.S. defense officials. So the question is to what extent would PLAN submarines threaten U.S. carriers during a conflict? This questions has two parts: 1) assessing how likely it is that a Chinese boat would be able to locate and track the American capital ship, and, 2) if it is able to do so, the extent to which it damage or sink the flattop.
Finding and Tracking a Carrier

Chinese submarines are likely to be forward deployed in a cordon to intercept the American CSG as it transits to the conflict zone in the western Pacific, with SSKs acting essentially as mobile minefields owing to their limited speed and endurance. Regarding the issue of Chinese subs finding U.S. carriers, Peter Howarth asserts in his book China’s Rising Sea Power: The PLA Navy’s Submarine Challenge (Routledge, 2006, p. 103.) that in the event of a Taiwan contingency:
The PLA Navy’s most promising course would be to deploy its quiet… SSKs to stake out the chokepoints between the chain of islands along the East Asian continental shelf and lie in wait for carrier… groups as they make their way into the semi-enclosed areas off the China coast.
China’s considerable progress in the A2/AD realm during the years since that study was published means that U.S. CSGs would be reluctant to operate in the “semi-enclosed areas off the China coast,” which is the area within or around the First Island Chain. As such, they are likely to operate beyond that – in the Philippine Sea and beyond. (See map below.)

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Why Do People Join ISIS? Here’s What They Say When You Ask Them

December 8, 2015 By Patrick Tucker
A marketing communications company gets the Pentagon’s attention by identifying nine reasons.
President Obama on Sunday night said that it was “clear” that Tashfeen Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, the two alleged assailants in the San Bernardino mass shooting, had “gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.” He did not speculate as to why people journey down that path or prescribe how the United States might deter, or detour, them. But a March report from Lebanon-based Quantum Communications provides some insight.

The researchers from Quantum collected televised interviews with 49 fighters in Syria and Iraq — some in custody, some who had defected, and some who were still in the fight. They analyzed the fighters’ statements using a psycho-contextual analytical technique developed by Canadian psychologist Marisa Zavalloni to divine the motivational forces and personal characteristics of the subjects.
It is a small sample, not entirely random, but given the difficulty of surveying a group like ISIS, still provides value. How much value? Michael Lumpkin, assistant defense secretary for special operations/low-intensity conflict, cited the report in his recent visit to Congress.
Defense One showed the report to University of Maryland professor Arie W. Kruglanski, one of the principal investigators at the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and the Response to Terrorism. He responded, “The content analysis that the researchers employed is a well respected method of gleaning information from contents of interviews … More importantly the findings make sense to me.”

The Middle East ABC for Americans

Written by Frank Li
The Middle East is a perpetual ticking time bomb, with volatile issues ranging from oil, to religion, to the war on terror, to the millions of displaced refugees, and to reckless political gambling (Turkey vs. Russia, Really?). After carefully studying some basics of the Middle East from my American perspective, I'd like to share them with you, supplementing my last article on the Middle East (Middle East: Past, Present, and Future).

1. Until 1945
The Middle East is the home to the Cradle of Civilization. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia - History of the Middle East:

Home to the Cradle of Civilization, the Middle East (usually interchangeable with the Near East) has seen many of the world's oldest cultures and civilizations. This history started from the earliest human settlements, continuing through several major pre- and post-Islamic Empires through to the modern collection of nation-states covering the Middle East today.
Great civilizations come and go. Unfortunately for the Middle East, it fell behind in evolution when compared with other regions (e.g. Europe). Mired in its past, the Middle East remained poor until about 100 years ago, when oil became strategically and financially important. The good news was that a lot of oil was discovered in the Middle East. The bad news was that the Europeans colonized the Middle East, for oil, chiefly! Below is a map as a highlight (The Divide between America and The Muslim World).

It appears the Europeans, although primarily to their own benefit, were able to manage the Middle East reasonably well, especially when compared with the strife of the past few decades. But with the European departure from the Middle East after World War II, two remnants of European involvement became big problems:
The Christian population left behind by the Europeans. It is becoming increasingly questionable whether any Christians will be allowed to co-exist with the Muslim majority there.
Many artificial countries created by the Europeans. They have appeared to be governable only by dictators, including kings (and queens).

ISIS Has Made $1.5 Billion From Bank Looting, Oil Sales

U.S. says Islamic State has made $1.5 billion from bank looting, oil sales
Reuters, December 11, 2015

Islamic State militants have looted up to $1 billion (66.72 billion Indian rupees) from bank vaults in Syria and Iraq and has made at least another half a billion dollars from black market oil sales, senior U.S. Treasury official Adam Szubin said on Thursday.

“ISIL has made more than $500 million from black market oil sales,” Szubin, acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence with the U.S. Treasury, said in remarks prepared for delivery.
“It has looted between $500 million and $1 billion from bank vaults captured in Iraq and Syria,” Szubin said. "And it has extorted many millions more from the populations under its control, often through brutal means.”

Szubin spoke at Chatham House in London.

Lessons of the Past Hint at Hurdles in Fight to Stop ISIS

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Nine years ago, after the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a risky cross-border raid, Israel declared it would crush the organization once and for all.
Instead, the ensuing war provided a textbook case of how overwhelming firepower can fail to defeat a determined or ideologically driven guerrilla force in the absence of a coherent and well-executed strategy — a cautionary tale, Middle East analysts say, for the powers now lining up to fight the Islamic State.

In 2006, Israel, wielding the region’s most powerful military and solid American support, leveled whole city blocks and village centers along with Hezbollah bunkers and offices. But Hezbollah remained standing, and soon it accumulated more political and military power than ever.

Today, the Islamic State, having developed a hybrid fighting force combining conventional military tactics, guerrilla abilities and far-flung attacks on civilians, faces a similarly lopsided fight. Arrayed against it, at least notionally, are both the United States and Russia, the regional archenemies Saudi Arabia and Iran, and even Hezbollah.

Why Americans Are Worried About Trump: The Mask Is Off Their Underlying Bigotry

The reason why Americans are unhappy with Trump may not be that he is bigoted, but that his bigotry is now showing up the underlying bigotry of many Americans that they were earlier able to conceal under layers of sophisticated language and political correctness.
R Jagannathan,  Editorial Director, Swarajya. 11 Dec, 2015

Donald Trump’s call this week for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” has rightly drawn angry responses from all quarters, including the Republican party.
However, an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll shows that 42 percent of Republican voters agreed with him, and only 36 percent did not. Among Americans as a whole, 57 percent disagreed with Trump, and only 25 percent backed his idea.

This may be reassuring, but it would be too much of a leap of faith to presume that Americans, by and large, are less bigoted than what the support for Trump within the Republican party suggests.
Contrast the 25 percent support for Trump with support for the murderous Islamic State (IS) among Muslims the world over. Barring Pakistan, a Pew Research report on attitudes to IS in 11 countries showed that favourable views on Islamic State were mostly in single digits, and over 60 percent had an unfavourable view of it. Pakistan was, of course, an outlier on bigotry, with 28 percent supporting IS, and 62 percent choosing not to even have a view on it. That itself is telling.

The numbers to contrast are the 57 percent of Americans who disagree with Trump, and the 60 percent plus Muslims who disagree with IS.
Another point one needs to juxtapose is this: 25 percent of Americans support Trump’s anti-Islam extreme views, as against the 0-14 percent range of support for Islamic State among Muslims in 11 countries.

Slavoj Žižek: We need to talk about Turkey

The so-called “war on terror” has become a clash within each civilisation, in which every side pretends to fight Isis in order to hit its true enemy.
By Slavoj Zizek
There is something weird about the solemn declarations that we are at war against the Islamic State – all the world’s superpowers against a religious gang controlling a small patch of mostly desert land... This doesn’t mean that we should not focus on destroying Isis, unconditionally, with no “but...”. The only “but” is that we should REALLY focus on destroying it, and for this much more is needed than the pathetic declarations and appeals to solidarity of all “civilised” forces against the demonised fundamentalist enemy.

What one should not engage in is the usual left-liberal litany of “one cannot fight terror with terror, violence only breeds more violence”. The time is now to start to raise unpleasant questions: how is it possible for the Islamic State to survive? As we all know, in spite of formal condemnation and rejection from all sides, there are forces and states which silently not only tolerate it, but also help it. Recently as the fierce clashes between Russian army and Isis terrorists raging across the war-torn Syria, countless number of Isis injured fighters enter the Turkish territory and are being admitted in the military hospitals.

As David Graeber pointed out recently, had Turkey placed the same kind of absolute blockade on Isis territories as they did on Kurdish-held parts of Syria, let alone shown the same sort of “benign neglect” towards the PKK and YPG that they have been offering to Islamic State, Islamic State would long since have collapsed, and the Paris attacks would probably not have happened. Instead, Turkey was not only discreetly helping IS by treating its wounded soldiers, and facilitating the oil exports from the territories held by IS, but also by brutally attacking the Kurdish forces, the ONLY local forces engaged in a serious battle with IS. Plus Turkey even shot down a Russian fighter attacking Isis positions in Syria. Similar things are going on in Saudi Arabia, the key US ally in the region (which welcomes the IS war on Shiites), and even Israel is suspiciously silent in its condemnation of Isis out of opportunistic calculation (Isis is fighting the pro-Iranian Shia forces which Israel considers its main enemy).

US intelligence community wants to help IBM crack quantum computing


The research arm of the US intelligence community this week awarded IBM a multi-year research grant to continue working on 'quantum computers.'
By Jeff Ward-Bailey, Correspondent December 9, 2015

The fastest supercomputer in the world, China’s Tianhe-2, occupies nearly 8,000 square-feet of space and can perform operations at a speed of 34 petaflops – that’s 34 trillion operations per second. Governments, universities, and large companies need that kind of computing power for modelling simulations that have thousands of independent variables, such as air traffic control, molecular modeling, and cryptanalysis.
Tianhe-2, like all supercomputers, relies on traditional digital design in which each bit represents either a 0 or a 1. But quantum computers, which were first proposed in the 1980s, have atom-sized bits that can represent 0, 1, or a “superposition” of both 0 and 1 at the same time.
Three quantum bits, or qubits, can represent eight values simultaneously, which means quantum computers could be much faster than traditional computers at solving certain kinds of problems.
Researchers have been working on quantum computing for decades, but have only started building physical quantum-computing components in the last few years – and, this week, the US government announced that it will support this work with a multi-year funding grant. IARPA, the research arm of the 17-member United States Intelligence Community, awarded a multi-year grant to IBM to continue its quantum-computing research.
The main challenge facing researchers is the fragility of qubits. Qubits have to be shielded from heat and electromagnetic interference and cooled to near absolute zero (-459 degree F), or else they’ll return errors. IBM’s most powerful quantum computer so far contains only eight qubits, reports Quartz’s Mike Murphy. But the company has made some important breakthroughs recently, including embedding qubits on a computer chip in a lattice formation to more easily detect quantum errors.

Sustaining America’s advantage in the electronic spectrum

Bryan Clark and Mark Gunzinger, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments 1 December 8, 2015
Editor's Note: The following is the executive summary to a report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the full copy of which is linked to at the bottom of this page.

The electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) is one of the most critical operational domains in modern warfare. Although militaries have used it for decades to communicate, navigate, and locate friendly and enemy forces, emerging technological advances promise to dramatically change their operations. In the same way that smartphones and the Internet are redefining how the world shares, shops, learns and works, the development and fielding of advanced sensors and networking technologies will enable militaries to gain significant new advantages over competitors that fail to keep pace.

Unfortunately, “failed to keep pace” is an appropriate description of the Department of Defense’s investments in EMS warfare capabilities over the last generation. In the absence of a peer rival following the end of the Cold War, DoD failed to pursue a new generation of capabilities that are needed to maintain its EMS operational superiority. This pause provided China, Russia, and other rivals with an opportunity to field systems that target vulnerabilities in sensor and communication networks the U.S. military has come to depend on. As a result, America’s once significant military advantage in the EMS domain is eroding, and may in fact no longer exist. This does not have to remain the case. DoD now has the opportunity to develop new operational concepts and technologies that will allow it to “leap ahead” of its competitors and create enduring advantages in EMS warfare.

Viewing EMS warfare as a long-term competition

EMS warfare can be roughly described as military communications, sensing, and electronic warfare (EW) operations that occur in the EM domain. While the term EMS warfare may be new, military operations in the EMS are not. Excluding simple visual signaling, armies, navies, and air forces have used EMS capabilities for more than a century to support their operations. Most people are familiar with the advantages communication and sensing systems such as radios and radar that operate in the radio frequency (RF) portion of the EMS have provided militaries since the opening stages of World War II. How militaries have conducted EMS warfare, however, has changed significantly over the last 100-plus years. These changes are as a series of major phases, each of which placed a different emphasis on the use of active or passive EMS capabilities and countermeasures. Within each phase, incremental improvements to existing EMS capabilities allowed militaries to gain temporary advantages over their competitors. Advantages that are more enduring have proven to be the product of new operational concepts and capabilities that enabled militaries to transition to the next phase of the EMS warfare competition before their rivals.

Electronic Warfare's Place in Distributed Lethality: Testimony to HASC Seapower and Projection Forces


Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee , Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces
Prepared Statement of Jonathan F. Solomon
Senior Systems and Technology Analyst, Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc.
December 9th, 2015

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity on his own initiative. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency. These views have not been coordinated with, and are not offered in the interest of, Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. or any of its customers.

Thank you Chairman Forbes and Ranking Member Courtney and all the members of the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee for granting me the honor of testifying today and to submit this written statement for the record.

I am a former U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer (SWO), and served two Division Officer tours in destroyers while on active duty from 2000-2004. My two billets were perhaps the most tactically-intensive ones available to a junior SWO: Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer and AEGIS Fire Control Officer. As the young officer responsible for overseeing the maintenance and operation of my destroyers’ principal combat systems, I obtained an unparalleled foundational education in the tactics and technologies of modern naval warfare. In particular, I gained a fine appreciation for the difficulties of interpreting and then optimally acting upon the dynamic and often ambiguous “situational pictures” that were produced by the sensors I “owned.” I can attest to the fact that Clausewitz’s concepts of “fog” and “friction” remain alive and well in the 21st Century in spite of, and sometimes exacerbated by, our technological advancements.

My civilian job of the past eleven years at Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. has been to provide programmatic and systems engineering support to various surface combat system acquisition programs within the portfolio of the Navy’s Program Executive Officer for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS). This work has provided me an opportunity to participate, however peripherally, in the development of some of the surface Navy’s future combat systems technologies. It has also enriched my understanding of the technical principles and considerations that affect combat systems performance; this is no small thing considering that I am not an engineer by education.

US Intel Community Taps Encryption-Busting Tech Firm for Digital Spying

December 9, 2015 By Frank Konkel Nextgov

The venture capital arm of the CIA is buying in to a Canadian company that says it can access certain encrypted technologies.
Amid growing terrorist threats from groups like ISIS and increasingly successful cyberattacks from nation states like China, the U.S. intelligence community today announced it will invest in a company that produces digital forensics software.
the IC’s technology investment arm, did not disclose how much funding it will provide the Canadian-based Magnet Forensics, but officials said they believe the company and its flagship product, the Internet Evidence Finder, are promising examples of innovation in the expanding field of digital forensics.

Internet Evidence Finder, the 4-year-old company’s most popular product, is used by 2,700 public safety organizations across 92 countries, primarily for law enforcement purposes. It recovers and analyzes unstructured data, like social media posts, text from chat rooms and emails from computers and other Web-connected devices.
The company bills its software as useful for “cybercrime, terrorism, child exploitation and insider threats,” but it’s likely the first two avenues are the most interesting for In-Q-Tel. Use cases for such technology include both predicting terrorism or cyberattacks and piecing together the digital pieces after an event.
Comments made recently by Jad Saliba, founder and chief technology officer of Magnet Forensics, suggest another interest In-Q-Tel might have in the company: mitigating encryption.
Saliba’s company collects digital evidence from devices, including the “unbreakable” iPhone, according to a report in the Toronto Star last month.

“While conducting such digital forensic investigations on (an Apple device) is becoming increasingly difficult due to increased encryption, we’re committed to continuing to innovate to support our partners in law enforcement so they can get the critical evidence they need for their investigations,” Saliba said in a statement to the Star.

Malvertising: The Hack That Infects Computers Without A Click

December 10, 2015 · by RC Porter ·
Malvertising: The Hack That Infects Computers Without A Click
Joseph Cox had an interesting; but, worrisome article on WIRED.com’s December 9, 2015 website, about the threat of malvertising.– a way for hackers to breach your device, without you even making the mistake of clicking a malicious link. Known as malvertising, “hackers buy ad space on a legitimate website; and, as the name suggests — upload malicious advertisements designed to hack the site visitor’s computers,” Mr. Cox wrote. There is “a booming trade in malvertising: where cyber criminals rent out ads on sketchy corners of the Internet and popular sites alike — in order to infect the computers of people as they can,” he added.
Plenty Of Popular Sites Have Been Tazrgeted

“Malvertising dates back to at least 2009, when some visitors to The New York Times, were met with a pop-up, posing as an anti-virus scanner,” Mr. Cox notes. “In the background of The Daily Mail, third-party advertisements were surreptitiously, and automatically redirecting readers to powerful exploit kits, designed to install malware on their computers. The Daily Mail attack was only one of many recent examples to hit mainstream sites. Popular porn sites like You Porn and PornHub dished out malicious ads in September as well, and a month earlier, The Huffington Post, a site with 100 million unique monthly visitors, was serving up malware. Both The Drudge Report and Yahoo were also hit by malvertising campaigns this year, and Forbes fell victim in September,” Mr. Cox wrote.

“If this all sounds like a lot,” Mr. Cox writes, “it’s because it is: Researchers at the malware security company Cyphort reported a 325 percent increase of malvertising attacks between June 2014 and February 2015.’
How Malvertising Works

“Although each attack can vary, malvertising follows a fairly standard process,” WIRED.com notes. “First, an attacker signs up on an ad network. These are the companies that pump ads into the site you use, and which sell ad space to companies that want to show off their products. They act as middlemen between the website wishing to sell its spare ad space, and the party with the advertisement. The ad creator uploads their content to the ad network’s central server, which then sends the ad’s code off to the website when needed.

USAF Wants Industry’s Help Building Full-Spectrum SIGINT-Cyber Intel System

December 11, 2015

Presolicitation Notice - Full Spectrum Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Cyber Operations Technology
fbo.gov, December 10, 2015
Notice Type: Presolicitation Notice
Posted Date: 09-DEC-15
Office Address: Department of the Air Force; Air Force Materiel Command; AFRL/RIK -
Rome; 26 Electronic Parkway Rome NY 13441-4514
Subject: Full Spectrum Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Cyber Operations Technology
Classification Code: A - Research & Development
Contact: Gail E. Marsh, Contracting Officer, Phone 315-330-7518, Email Gail.Marsh@us.af.mil
Description: Department of the Air Force
Air Force Materiel Command
FEDERAL AGENCY NAME: Department of the Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command, AFRL - Rome Research Site, AFRL/Information Directorate, 26 Electronic Parkway,
Rome, NY, 13441-4514 TITLE: Full Spectrum Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Cyber Operations Technology

ANNOUNCEMENT TYPE: Initial announcement

Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate (AFRL/RI) is soliciting white papers for various scientific studies, investigations, and experiments to increase our knowledge, understanding and capability in order to expand cyber operations technologies involving full spectrum signals intelligence (SIGINT) and Electronic Warfare (EW) within the Department of Defense (DoD). Areas of interest include the integration, better coordination of, and capability to conduct cyberspace operations. This includes integration research into operational and contingency planning, as well as technology and approaches to better equip the warfighter. Concepts at the intersection of the areas of SIGINT, EW and Cyber technologies are sought in this Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). Development proposals, specifically as applies to new ideas/concepts for practical application, are of interest.

Research efforts under this program are expected to result in experimental capabilities, concepts, theory, and applications addressing cyber operations problems involving SIGINT and EW to support the future needs of DoD including 24th Air Force, 25th Air Force and other government agencies. Broad topics of interest include applying machine learning, mission platforms, and spectrum issues to cyber operations, and improving cyber exercise technology. Projects specializing in highly novel, interesting, and applicable techniques will also be considered if deemed to be of “breakthrough” quality and importance.

The effectiveness of the proposed technologies for future potential transitioning must be assessable through preplanned testing and evaluation activities. Offerors are encouraged to describe the pre-conditions and assumptions that are necessary for the proposed techniques to work effectively.

Additional technical information relevant to potential submitters is contained in a classified document at the Secret level to this BAA. A DD 254 is attached for further guidance. Unclassified ideas are welcomed, however, if you wish to review the classified document prior to submission, please follow the guidance below.

The US, China and an Abundance of Cyber-Caution

Is restraint the chief characteristic of conflict in the cyber-age?
By Robert Farley, December 11, 2015

Why does China appear to be backing down to U.S. pressure on cyber-espionage? National security and cyber-warfare analysts have reacted with skepticism and surprise to China’s apparent receptivity to recent U.S. criticism over its cyber-espionage practices. Why have seemingly tepid U.S. actions had such an impact?
This may be the wrong question. There’s a way of thinking about this question that rests less on the idea that the United States intimidated China (and consequently wonders why China felt intimidated), and more on the possibility that states are still finding their way in the cyber-realm, that the norms of cyber-conflict remain plastic, and that restraint may carry the day.

While many analysts have predicted that the opening of the cyberspace would lead to national conflict, and government conflict against subnational groups, Brandon Valeriano and Ryan Maness argue in Cyber War versus Cyber Realities that the chief characteristic of conflict in the cyber-age has been restraint. While the development of the cyber commons opens up wide avenues in which states can attack one another, most governments thus far have not pressed their advantages. In part because of uncertainty about their own vulnerability, states restrain themselves from escalating.
Some states may also worry about principal-agent problems: the degree to which they can exert full control over the cyber-capabilities that they develop. And while non-state proxies may offer some states certain advantages, these states may also be concerned about the use of such actors because of the long-term threat that enabling the groups could pose.

CNAS Releases Report on the Future of the Ground Forces

December 10, 2015
Paul Scharre
Washington, December 10 – Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Defense Strategies and Assessments Program Senior Fellow Paul Scharre has written a new report, “Uncertain Ground: Emerging Challenges in Land Warfare.” The report, which is a part of the CNAS Future of the Ground Forces Project, examines emerging challenges facing U.S. ground forces and makes recommendations for enhancing strategic agility to adapt to a changing world.

The full report is available here: http://www.cnas.org/emerging-challenges-in-land-warfare.
Please find the introduction of the report below:

The U.S. ground forces are at a critical juncture. With the end of two long wars, the ground forces are transitioning away from a period of sustained large-scale counterinsurgencies and preparing for future conflicts. The shape of that future, however, is far from certain. The Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Command face a diverse array of challenges. From a resurgent Russia to a chaotic Middle East to a rising China, the evolving security environment presents a myriad array of possible challenges. Any number of these could involve the commitment of U.S. ground troops, potentially in large numbers and for operations that could be far different from the counterinsurgency wars the U.S. military has fought for the past decade-plus. At the same time, the scope and character of possible ground operations has evolved beyond easy characterizations between counterinsurgency vs. traditional warfare, unconventional vs. conventional, irregular vs. regular. Non-state actors possess increasingly advanced weapons, such as anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), and low-cost commercially available drones. These will allow them to contest U.S. forces for control of terrain and impose heavy costs on militaries advancing into these low-end anti-access/area denial environments. Nation-states have also adapted their tactics, relying on “gray zone” or hybrid approaches that use proxies, deniable operations, propaganda, and cyber attacks to achieve their objectives without overt military aggression.

The battlespace in which U.S. forces find themselves is also evolving. The rapid diffusion of information technology connects and empowers civilian populations, upending traditional relationships between people and authority. Ubiquitous smartphones mean that every citizen can be a global reporter, the node of an ad hoc network, the leader of a spontaneous flash mob, or the symbol for a cause. In future ground operations, U.S. forces are likely to find themselves in an environment where the location and disposition of U.S. troops is known to anyone interested and where every action – and inaction – of U.S. servicemembers is broadcast in real time.

Many aspects of ground warfare are not likely to change, however. Information will not strip away the fog of war. Technology will not reduce warfare to a riskless engineering exercise. In fact, quite the opposite: Advances in more lethal weaponry are likely to make war more bloody, not less. The rapid pace of commercially-driven innovation is likely to further erode the U.S. military’s technological advantages in ground warfare.

In this environment, strategic agility will be key to success. The U.S. military needs ground forces that can rapidly adapt to changing events on the ground, troops who understand the strategic ramifications of their actions, and acquisition processes that equip them with the right tools for each mission and environment.

America’s Not Ready for Today’s Gray Wars

December 10, 2015 By Eric Olson
To defeat terrorists, we need to overhaul our military and other levers of government to tackle complex and shifting threats.

U.S. Navy Adm. Eric Olson (ret.) is the former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. He is adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Full Bio
As Washington struggles to respond to brutal acts of violence from Syria to San Bernardino, much of the conversation is about the size and scope of our response to defeat our enemies.
Although Americans by now understand that we are not in a traditional war against an armed state, we still fail to comprehend the true complexities and profound challenges of conducting a broad range of military and law enforcement actions in smaller, less straightforward operations against terrorists and their organizations.
We are trying to oversimplify the pandemonium of war. Violence, frequent and savage, is brought upon us by non-state entities and their ideological subscribers who do not hold to the traditional justifications or methods of armed conflict. Barbaric behavior has become the norm. Our enemies’ use of technology will continue as cyber attacks become commonplace, digital media are used to frighten and incite, and remote detonation of bombs is exported from the roadside improvised explosive devices of Iraq and Afghanistan to the streets of Middle America.

Our national security is of course dependent on the entire U.S. government—including the CIA, State Department and others—but I want to focus here on the armed forces. We need to rebalance our military forces to develop capabilities that are very different from the wars of earlier generations.
Our military units must remain, without doubt, masters of death and destruction. The need to kill our most violent and unrepentant enemies is real and urgent. Deploying special operations and other combat forces for this mission is necessary, and we should be unhesitant and unapologetic about doing so. But it is not always the first or best answer and it is never enough on its own. We must be ready to kill, but we cannot kill our way to victory.

Increasingly, violent conflict is taking place in what experts call the “gray zone.” That is, as the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, Gen. Joe Votel, said, where entities or groups “seek to secure their objectives while minimizing the scope and scale of actual combat.” It is in this murky middle that, Votel explained, “we are confronted with ambiguity on the nature of the conflict, the parties involved, and the validity of the legal and political claims at stake. These conflicts defy our ‘traditional’ views of war.”